Sunday 25 February 2018

Leinster poser for new hurling format

The final touches are being put to the proposals, which will be circulated to counties early next week for consideration, prior to going before Central Council on June 17. Stock picture: Sportsfile
The final touches are being put to the proposals, which will be circulated to counties early next week for consideration, prior to going before Central Council on June 17. Stock picture: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Fears among some Leinster counties that they might be treated less favourably than their Munster counterparts could make proposed changes to the All-Ireland hurling championship format a hard sell.

The final touches are being put to the proposals, which will be circulated to counties early next week for consideration, prior to going before Central Council on June 17. If approved there, they will be put to a Special Congress in the autumn, with a view to implementation next year.

The plan envisages a five-county round-robin system in Leinster and Munster, with the top three in either group advancing to the All-Ireland series. The top two in each province would contest the provincial finals, with the winners advancing to the All-Ireland semi-finals and the losers playing the third-placed teams in the quarter-finals.

It's straight-forward in Munster where Clare, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford are all of an even standard.

However, that's not the case in Leinster, which has seven counties, as well as Galway and Kerry, in this year's Championship. Carlow and Antrim meet in the Christy Ring Cup on Saturday week, with the winners to enter Leinster next year.

Reducing the Leinster field to five for the round robin section could be contentious.

Given Galway's current strength, they are certain to be in the top five, leaving only four places for Leinster counties, plus Antrim and Kerry, who are likely to be in the qualifying mix.

The fifth-placed county would return to the Leinster qualifying group for the following year. As things stand, Kilkenny, Galway, Wexford and Dublin, notwithstanding their heavy defeat last Sunday, are the top four in Leinster. That leaves one place for the rest, including Offaly and Laois, both of whom would be unhappy at being unable to compete for their own provincial championship.

There's no such issue for five Munster counties. The original plan may be tweaked but if it goes forward with only five counties in the Leinster Championship, there's likely to be strong opposition, starting at Central Council.

The GAA's top power-brokers are keen to have an amended hurling format in place for next year to coincide with the introduction of the Super 8 system in football, which replaces the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Hurling counties are keen for change to avoid the game being overshadowed by football from mid-July on.

Irish Independent

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